6 Legendary Lost Treasures That Are Still Up for Grabs
Video games and old movies give us the impression that the whole world is filled with treasure chests, tombs full of bling, and random pockets of riches here and there just waiting to be picked up, but that's ridiculous -- only some parts of the world are like that. That's right -- lost treasures do exist. And plenty of them.
However, if gold coins were as easy to get as Mario makes it look, someone would have done it already. That's why awesome finds like the following are still unclaimed after centuries ... or at least they were, before we posted this article.
The Sunken Spanish Treasure Fleet (Florida, USA)
Florida gets a bad rep, what with all the heat, humidity, and overall Floridaness of the place. However, there's one advantage to living there besides scoring with hot widows: a certain stretch known as Treasure Coast, because treasures literally wash up on the coast from time to time. Just last September, a family found $300,000 worth of gold about 150 yards offshore.
"And they called us crazy after the first 12 years of random, fruitless searching!"
The best part is that there's way more where that came from ... although the 1,000 Spanish sailors who had to drown for that treasure to get there probably don't see it that way. In 1712, Spain had just finished its War of Succession, which meant they were kind of light on funds. Luckily, they had yet to loot all the riches from their colonies in the New World, so in 1715, they assembled 11 galleon- and galley-class ships containing pearls, emeralds, gold, and silver to transport wealth from Cuba to Spain. It was one of the biggest treasure fleets ever.
And then it wasn't.
But you can still go visit it. It's wonderfully well-preserved.
The commanding officer had the stunningly stupid idea of waiting until hurricane season before setting sail for Spain, with the results you can see above. Seven days and thousands of dead sailors later, the fleet had been sunk. To this day, golden goblets and silver plates wash up on Treasure Coast beaches, most of which probably end up being deep fried by retirees with poor eyesight.
The most intriguing part, though, is that of the 11 treasure-filled ships, four haven't been located. One of them, the refreshing-sounding San Miguel, was lighter than the others, just in case they were hit by a storm, so it's suspected to have survived the carnage and ended up further north -- which is important, because some estimate that the San Miguel alone could have been carrying as much as $2 billion. So, it might be time to take an early retirement, head to Florida, and start hanging out by the beach, just in case a fully intact Spanish ship washes up in front of you.
The Treasure Map in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Israel)
The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the greatest historical discovery of the past century due to their tremendous value to religion, linguistics, and the important discipline of how to hide shit so well that no one will find it for 2,000 years. But, more to the point, the scrolls could also be of tremendous value to you, because one of them actually consists of instructions for how to get rich.
And it can be yours for the low price of ... nothing. Because this isn't a scam.
Six years after two random nobodies stumbled upon the first Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran, archaeologists found a strange oxidized copper scroll that was broken into two halves, almost like a treasure map waiting to be assembled. Or exactly like a treasure map waiting to be assembled, because it turned out that the scroll contained a list of 64 locations around Israel where gold and silver were hidden, with an estimated value of $1.2 billion. For instance:
"Item 3. In the funeral shrine, in the third row of stones: 100 gold ingots."
Well, shit, that's 100 more gold ingots that we've ever seen, let's go get that! There's just one problem: No one knows what freaking funeral shrine they're talking about, because the instructions just sort of assume that you'll be familiar with fourth century B.C. Israel. It can get pretty maddening:
"Item 5: In the ascent of the 'staircase of refuge,' to the left-hand side, three cubits up from the floor are 40 talents of silver."
"No, that's the 'staircase of kindness,' you fucking moron."
Did we say "one problem"? Because there are actually several: Most of it is in ancient Hebrew, a language we know mostly through religious texts, meaning that the Copper Scroll uses words linguists haven't seen before. Also, there are even older Hebrew words and some random Greek ones thrown in for some reason. As a result, some translations look like this:
"Item 32: In the cave that is next to ????? and belonging to the House of Hakkoz, dig six cubits. Within are six ingots of gold."
However, none of this explains why no one is taking a sledgehammer to every shrine, staircase, and house in Israel to see if ... be right back, gonna go get rich.
Forrest Fenn's Million-Dollar Buried Treasure (Rocky Mountains, USA)
In 1988, art dealer/collector Forrest Fenn was diagnosed with kidney cancer and given about a year to live. Instead of starting a meth lab in his RV, Fenn chose a more altruistic path: He decided to give away the gems of his collection, by which we mean literal gems, plus gold nuggets, Chinese jade carvings, and pre-Columbian riches. All in all, he was alleviating himself of between $1 and $3 million.
Not a Pirates of the Caribbean prop. That's the actual thing.
But, since simply giving all that stuff to a children's hospital or something would have been too boring, Fenn threw everything in a chest and buried it somewhere in the mountains ... and whoever finds it gets to keep it. So, uh, hopefully no aspiring supervillains are reading this article.
By the time Fenn got around to burying the chest, 20 years had passed, and his doctor's prognosis had proven to be slightly off. Good for him -- now how do we find this thing? Easy! Just follow the instructions found in Fenn's memoirs, The Thrill of the Chase, which are in the form of a cryptic poem straight out of a Sierra game. It reads, in part:
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
On his website, Fenn continues to release more clues for the thousands of avid treasure hunters who follow him, such as "The treasure is not in an outhouse" (people surnamed Brown were getting pissed) or "The treasure is not in a graveyard" (dead people, too). His second book, Too Far to Walk, even included a pullout map that narrows it down to "the Rocky Mountains":
"It's a place with dirt, and air. Can't miss it."
The ambiguity of his clues mixed with a lack of successful searching has led some to wonder if the treasure really exists, or if it's just a scam to become a famous author (but not a rich one, since the book profits go to charity). The third option is that Fenn was just trying to give people the greatest treasure of all: the thrill of an adventure. Which is nice and all, but how are we supposed to buy cocaine with that?
Emperor Tu Duc's Gold-Filled Secret Tomb (Vietnam)
Tu Duc was a Vietnamese emperor who spent his life buried in ass. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he was totally infertile, the guy had 104 wives. Not lovers -- official wives. We're not even counting his army of concubines.
He kept five under his dress at all times.
As for his death, he's (possibly) spending it buried in the second best thing after ass: lots and lots of gold. And no one's found it yet.
Tu Duc's tomb is big enough to get lost in, and apparently that's exactly what he did. Since he had no offspring to take care of his funeral arrangements, old Duc decided to tackle that himself and humbly commissioned a huge burial palace for his mortal remains. More importantly, some say that whatever gold he didn't spend building that place accompanied him to the grave.
Tourists still flock to see Tu Duc's tomb castle, but Vietnam travel guides insist that the place where they're taking their "look at me I'm so cultural" selfies is just an empty lump of granite: His real tomb, along with all his treasure, is hidden in a secret location somewhere in the area.
But at least he left his massive action figure collection on display for all to see.
Of course, Tu Duc's wealth didn't just float off to the secret location: Someone had to carry that shit. At least one of those guys had to get drunk and spill the beans about the treasure, right? Nope, because Tu Duc was so protective of his money that, according to the legend, he ordered that all his 200 loyal servants be decapitated as soon as they finished burying him. Yes, just to prevent the theft of the money he was never going to use.
"Burn my best porn, too."
This whole thing could easily be some bullshit a travel agency made up to get you to visit Vietnam, especially since we can find no mention of the story before 2001, but if you're a treasure hunter, it still seems worth a shot. Just remember that there's always the possibility that he asked to be buried with all his wives in a massive undead orgy position, so really ask yourself how badly you want that gold.
The Desert-Stranded Pearly Galleon (California, USA)
The image of a great hulking ship stuck in the middle of a desert seems like something that should only exist in post-apocalyptic DeviantART drawings, but it does happen in real life from time to time -- here's one:
That's cool, but what about a desert ship with something more valuable than sand and lizard poop inside? Well, multiple accounts from American Indians, prospectors, and travelers claim that there's one right in California, though it's proven surprisingly tricky to find for a giant chunk of wood. The most consistent and reliable reports speak of a lost Spanish galleon loaded with black pearls in the Mojave or Colorado Desert. Why, even one of the greatest inventors of our time claimed to see it:
The final panel's angle hides five twisty duck boners.
According to legend, in 1612, Juan De Iturbe was sailing his caravel full of pearls up the Gulf of Carolina, when a huge tidal swell washed him and his fortune into the then quickly drying lake of Cahuilla. Iturbe and his crew had to make a tough choice: stay rich and die the middle of the desert, or abandon ship and leave the bulk of the treasure behind. They went for the latter option and had to trek 316 miles through deserts and mountains.
Since then, there have been dozens of alleged sightings: In 1870, the Los Angeles Star reported that a man named Charley Clusker (not a Stan Lee creation) had found the ship near Dos Palmas. The newspaper reported on his findings and plans for a return trip ... but then, much like the mysterious ship, he simply disappeared. Perhaps he died before reaching the treasure. Or perhaps he did get it, and then died anyway from all the booze he bought.
Incidentally, a millionaire named Marley Musker suddenly popped up in New York that year.
Other people have said they saw it, including a Yuma Indian who showed up in a nearby town conspicuously loaded with pearls, but every time someone returns to collect the treasure, the ship is gone. Either the wind keeps burying it under the sand, or there's some Scooby-Doo shit going on here. Only one way to find out, adventurer!
The Dynamited Treasure of Victorio Peak (New Mexico, USA)
In 1937, a man named Doc Noss fulfilled the potential of his awesome name when, during a deer hunting trip in the Southern Rocky Mountains, he came across a dark mine shaft containing skeletons, jewels, and other historical items, including 16,000 bars of iron.
Which he immediately set to work molding into a flying armored suit.
It was only when his wife, Babe (obviously), insisted that he bring one of the iron bars to her that they noticed it had a golden hue -- because it was gold. Doc's reaction? "Babe ... we can call John D. Rockefeller a tramp!"
Of course, we wouldn't be talking about Doc Noss if he had simply taken out that gold without a hitch and bought a beach resort. The problem was that the entrance to the mine was very narrow, so in a move that we can only hope landed him the nickname "Dynamite Doc," Noss decided that the best way to expand it was through good old-fashioned explosions. Unsurprisingly, he accidentally closed off the mine, and perhaps even less surprisingly, he soon became "Divorced Doc."
And "Destitute Doc," and probably "Drunky Doc."
Noss became "Dead Doc" when a business partner shot him to death over a dispute about the gold, but his family, along with countless others, continued searching for the treasure. Another problem: In the '50s, the area, known as Victorio Peak, was closed to the public because the Army started doing dangerous nuclear tests there ... which naturally didn't stop the Army itself from performing a top-secret search after soldiers claimed they found the booty. When this became public and the Noss family protested, the Army claimed they found nothing.
No one's sure if the Army took the gold, or who put it there in the first place (probably those absent-minded Spaniards), or if it even existed, but the $1.2 billion estimated value is enough to keep people coming back to molest this tiny shaft hoping something valuable will come out. If you find it, it might be a little too late to call John Rockefeller a tramp, but we're sure you can think of something appropriate to call Donald Trump.